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JOHN H. KANE v. WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (WILLIAMSPORT AUTOMOTIVE) (07/14/87)

decided: July 14, 1987.

JOHN H. KANE, PETITIONER
v.
WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (WILLIAMSPORT AUTOMOTIVE), RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, in case of John H. Kane v. Williamsport Automotive, No. A-89640.

COUNSEL

John M. Humphrey, Rieders, Travis, Mussina, Humphrey & Harris, for petitioner.

Matthew D. Dempsey, Lenahan & Dempsey, P.C., for respondent, Williamsport Automotive.

Judges Barry and Palladino, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.

Author: Palladino

[ 107 Pa. Commw. Page 361]

John H. Kane (Petitioner) appeals from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which affirmed a referee's order awarding compensation for the period July 12, 1983 to February 4, 1984.

Petitioner filed a claim petition alleging that he sustained a compensable psychological injury as a result of harassment in the course of his employment with Williamsport Automotive (Employer). Petitioner alleged that as of July 12, 1983 he was totally disabled from his job as an office manager. Several hearings before a referee were held. The referee found that Petitioner suffered from pre-existing psychological problems which were aggravated by unusual and objective stressful events at Petitioner's job with Employer. However, the referee also concluded that the Employer established that any disability of Petitioner after February 4, 1984 was not due to a work-related injury but was due to his pre-existing mental condition.

Petitioner appealed to the Board which affirmed the decision of the referee. On appeal to this court, Petitioner asserts that the Board erred in affirming the referee because substantial evidence does not exist to support the conclusion that Petitioner's disability was no longer work-related as of February 4, 1984.

To establish entitlement to benefits for a mental illness the claimant must establish that it arose in the course of employment and is related thereto. See Thomas v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 55 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 449, 423 A.2d 784 (1980). However, the claimant must show more than a subjective reaction to being at work and being exposed to normal working conditions to sustain the burden of proving a

[ 107 Pa. Commw. Page 362]

    compensable injury under the Law.*fn1 Moonblatt v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (City of Philadelphia), 85 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 128, 481 A.2d 374 (1984). In order for a claimant with a pre-existing mental illness to prove a compensable injury, the work situation must have exacerbated the pre-existing mental illness thereby rendering the claimant disabled. Hirschberg v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Department of Transportation), 81 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 579, 474 A.2d 82 (1984).

In the case at bar, the referee concluded that Petitioner met his burden of proving a compensable psychic injury:

In this case I found the testimony of the claimant and his witnesses convincing that the work situation was unusual such that it caused disability. I felt Dr. Peterson was convincing that the claimant was disabled due to a condition precipitated by work. I thought that the youthful age of the new boss, a new computer and a change of duties were significant [sic] objective stressful events which triggered disability. The claimant had pre-existing conditions. In fact his present disability was described by him as very similar to one he suffered in 1975. I ...


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